Everyone remembers when they first drove on the road. Usually it was after a few driving lessons in the shopping centre carpark with mum or dad alongside them offering suggestions and tips on safe driving.
After that a driving instructor normally takes over for a few lessons before you go to the Department of Transport and try and get your provisional licence which most people failed on their first attempt.
I had to do mine the hard way!
I grew up without a dad and my mum has never driven so my best mate, Mark’s mum, gave me a couple of lessons in his sister’s car. It was a yellow Mitsubishi Sigma.
I did the usual bunny hopping in the manual car and pretty much sucked but I was really appreciative that she took the effort.
As my birthday is in August I couldn’t get my learners permit until then and by the time I had a few lessons from Mark’s mum the school year was just about over.
I’ll skip forward to Thursday, November 16, 1989. The night of our school formal and graduation party. The following day we would get our high school certificate and graduate so the night before was a massive night for all as we celebrated the end of 12 years of school.
Even in high school I was a non drinker but still had a ball at the formal and the after party. The after party was held at a student’s house and while the majority of the senior students were still under 18 the alcohol was flowing freely.
It was a sight to see so many of my school mates pissed drunk for the first time. They were making fools of themselves but no one cared and neither did I. They deserved the drink and the celebration. I was more than happy drinking whatever I was drinking – probably water as my coke, er Coca Cola addiction didn’t start for a few more years yet.
The night had gone well and by the time the sun had risen on a very hot and humid Brisbane morning, those students that weren’t passed out on the floor or in the garden were certainly very ginger and nursing pretty bad headaches as the sunglasses came out.
My core group of friends and I decided that we needed to get the hell out of there and head back to another mates place to get cleaned up before heading to school for the graduation. But what to do? It was around 7.30am and none of us had money for a cab. We did have a yellow Mitsubishi Sigma out the front though and in their wisdom, the group decided that as I was sober I would drive us the 3 or 4 km to our mates place.
No probs I said. I’ve had a few lessons in this very car and I know how to operate this piece of shit this fine piece of machinery.
So we pile in with my best mate in the front seat and three guys in the back seat. Seat belts are buckled in. I adjust the mirrors and bunny hop down the road before finding the right gear and cruising around the neighbourhood.
No sweat until the stop sign at the top of the hill at the T – Intersection.
As it was peak hour on a busy Friday morning I was about 3 cars from the top of the hill when I had to stop. I applied the handbrake and when it was time for me to move up the hill further towards the intersection that is when the trouble started. You see I had never done a hill start before.
I knew how to take off on a flat surface using the handbrake but had never done it on a hill. In fact I had never even driven up a hill as all of my driving lessons were completed on level roads.
So here I am, trying to complete a hill start and failing. Badly. I had cars behind me honking their horns in frustration as I tried at least 10 times to get up the hill. Luckily I wasn’t rolling backwards into said cars.
My mates were all laughing to begin with but then they were getting frustrated and giving me advice on what to do. One of them, even suggested I get out and he drive but just as that came out of his mouth, and with great relief to all, I started up the hill after successfully managing the hill start.
I was so shaken and embarrassed though at this point that the remainder of the drive which was only a kilometre or so resulted in me scraping the wheels of the car along the gutter and screeching to a stop at the front of my mates place.
The guys couldn’t get out of the car quick enough and neither could I. Oh sure we laugh about it now but how stupid was I driving back then? I could have killed someone or all of us!
We decided to ride our bikes to school for the graduation and even that was a bit dangerous. No sleep. Humid, hot weather. It could have been a lot worse.
A couple of months later I joined the army and when asked what corps I wanted to join I chose the transport corps because at least there I would be trained how to drive properly. A 3 month driving course gave me all the skills I would need to become a good driver and you know what? I reckon I am!
Moral of the story. Catch a cab!